Competency management systems are an evolution from learning management systems where employee skills are matched with the job requirements to provide production efficiencies (Hyde 2006). Nonetheless, competency management as a discipline evolved from the development of competencies (which also came from the development of organizational and societal changes in the 80s) (CIPD 2010, p. 9). There are two types of competency management: position competencies (identifies competency needs of each employment position in the realization of organizational goals) and employee portfolios (tied to an employee’s skills and competencies) (CIPD 2010, p. 3).
Position competencies are also based on primary employee skills which are often utilized by the organization. However, this competency group also has other required competencies. In the employee portfolio group, for example, the competencies held can be applied without necessarily refreshing employee skills. Such competencies do not necessarily have to be applied to a given job description since they can be unrelated to the job in the first place. Sometimes, such competencies can be acquired from a previous job or an unrelated life experience.
Competency management is basically used in human capital management because it outlines the requirements for the accomplishment of specific company goals. Harrison (2005, p. 312) affirms that “Many organizations develop a competency behavior framework with a view to managing performance and progression more effectively”. However, Harrison (2005, p. 313) also notes that “many managers and individuals find it hard to use the frameworks to help achieve their goals and, therefore, the goals of the organization”.
The complications experienced when implementing competency frameworks are majorly experienced through a lack of proper training of the personnel meant to develop the competency framework in the first place. Also, in most cases, businesses that try to implement competency frameworks lack a clear map of where their companies are heading, and therefore fail to design their competency frameworks to support their organizational goals. Some organizations are also notorious for having a mix of different organizational concepts which equally makes them unwieldy. Competency frameworks, therefore, provide the criterion to be used to accomplish business goals and integrate business processes (but at the same time compliment employee development) (Elearn Limited 2005, p. 89).
Competency frameworks also help cut out training and education programs for employees because, in some sense, it acts as an expertise locator (since it eases the search for expertise and knowledge within the organization) (CIPD 2010, p. 9). Competency management has therefore also been used over the decades in knowledge management because it creates communities of practice, which is a viable platform where employees can come together and share common knowledge on how to improve their work performance. Lastly, competency management (as a tool) provides a consistent language and framework through which employees can communicate easily and share knowledge effectively within the organization (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development 2010, p. 125).
For purposes of this study, we will generate the requirements for a competency framework meant for Empire fast food restaurant, a hypothetical organization, with a global presence in most American and European states. We will then justify the design and components of the competency framework to ultimately provide evidence and support for the framework. The competency framework developed will then be contrasted with two other approaches in coming up with the same structure. Lastly, this study will provide a conclusion summarizing the basics for the implementation of the competency framework.
Overview of the Competency Framework
Empire fast food restaurant has a primary goal of customer satisfaction in all its international outlets. Because of this reason, the competency framework will be skewed towards shaping employees to have a better attitude towards the customers, so that organizational success can be finally experienced. The purpose of the competency framework will therefore be to change employee behavior and organizational culture to be in tune with the goal of satisfying customer needs.
The Empire fast food restaurant competency framework will be used to communicate the organization’s expectations with regards to the levels of employee performance and the expected areas of expertise the company desires the employees to concentrate on. In some way, the competency framework will outline the appropriate behaviors expected of the employees, how they’ll be acknowledged, and the respective rewards that’ll be pegged to new behavior. This is in line with recommendations arrived at, from a 2008 report done by Incomes Data Services (Cited in Whiddett 2003, p. 24) where it is documented that “competencies are typically used to define the behaviors that an employer values and believes will help it achieve its long-term goals”.
In some respects, the competency framework will be used to define the language of performance to be used in the organization. This will specifically articulate the outcomes expected of each individual and the way their duties are to be undertaken. The competency framework will not only be based on the behavioral components of competency frameworks but rather a dynamic approach based on technical competencies. The use of the computer and the internet is therefore very useful in the overall implementation of this competency framework.
In developing the competency framework for Empire fast food restaurant, we will first ensure that the employees are well aware of the communication of the purpose of the framework. If such understanding lacks among the employees, they wouldn’t understand how a change in their behaviors and organizational culture would ultimately impact the overall realization of organizational goals (Wright 2009, p. 50).
The Competency Structure
This competency framework will be based on four basic roles in Empire fast food restaurant. The roles include leadership, line manager, team member, and individual contributors (they are however not mutually exclusive; for instance, leaders can be managers and managers can also be members of teams). However, it is important to note that, both managers and leaders all have certain aspects of personal performance in the way they carry out their duties. People who are regarded as team members have a strong sense of independence in the sense that they are not entrusted with the same responsibilities managers or leaders are.
Such people, therefore, have their key competencies specifically based on the manner they deliver their duties. From this analysis, therefore, we can say that competence performance actually depends on the ability of an employee to control his or her actions. This framework is therefore unique in the sense that it recognizes that different people have different responsibilities and in the same manner, it also recognizes that there are different t types of project managers, leaders, and the likes.
Under leadership competency as the first attribute, various elements will be analyzed. These elements include strategic thinking, vision, direction, purpose, inspiring moments, and leadership change. These are the major competencies that will be expected of employees fitting into this category because collectively, they define the most basic attributes or competencies required of good leaders.
Secondly, in order to realize the ultimate goals of the organization, this competency framework recognizes that managerial attributes are important to the overall realization of organizational goals. In this regard, managerial skills will be the second element of analysis in this competency framework. In order to get the best managers, prospective managers sourced from a group of employees need to exhibit a number of competencies. These competencies include planning and managing resources, delivering results, managing individual performance, leading a team, motivating and energizing teams, developing people, and managing projects. These are the main competencies that the organization should seek because just like leadership skills, they collectively outline the most important competencies required of a manager.
In as much as Empire fast food restaurant needs good managers and leaders, it also requires employees who have the good personal delivery ability. This competency goes beyond acquired skills and competencies because the competencies required of employees with strong personal delivery ability are more in-born than acquired. However, this framework notes that even under the personal delivery category, several subcategories of specific competencies ought to be analyzed. These categories include the communication and inference category, building customer relationship category, thinking, and analysis, self-management, and quality and standards category.
Under the communication and inference category, this framework will look for competencies that’ll enable the organization to communicate well with the customers. To some degree, the employees sourced from this category will be the primary link between the organization and the customers. Considering this role will be their primary purpose, the specific competencies will include communication effectiveness, presentation skills, written communication, and personal influence. These competencies will ensure the organization gets employees who have the best communication and inference skills because these attributes outline what is expected of an employee with the best communication skills.
Under the building relationships category, the specific competencies expected of prospective applicants will be viewed as a continuation to the roles expected of employees with good communication skills. Employees noted to have good communication skills will act as the primary contact point between the organization and the employees, but specific competencies need to be sought from a group of other employees to build up good relationships between the organization and the customers.
This framework, therefore, outlines that the specific competencies to be sought should entail interpersonal skills, teamwork, conflict management, and collaboration. Interpersonal skills will be beneficial in improving the relationship between the customers and the organization while a team working spirit will be used to influence other employees in the organization and more so, the customer service department so that their customer service roles are improved. This study also recognizes that there may be instances of conflict between the employees and the customers, or among the employees themselves, and therefore it recommends that employees with a strong skill in conflict management need to be considered first because the conflict management skill is a special competency under the building relationships category. This competency is normally complimented by employees with strong collaborative skills.
After the above competencies are sought, this competency framework assumes that a high customer service standard will be attained at Empire fast food restaurant. Since this quality is expected, this competency framework recognizes the need of upholding a quality and standards team which will have to be sourced from employees by observing that they have specific competencies entailing performance orientation and customer focus as the main elements of analysis. Performance orientation will be like a standard benchmark of employee performance. Customer focus will also be another major competency to be sought among the employees because employees who have a strong customer focus are more likely to uphold their customer service quality. These are the major competencies expected of the employees under this subcategory.
When all the above competencies are approved, this competency framework ensures that another group of employees with thinking and analysis quality ought to be sought. Under this subcategory, the specific competencies to be sought entail problem solving, innovation, and decision making. These competencies are important because they define the specific attributes to be sought among employees with high thinking and analysis quality.
Ultimately, the competency framework outlines the last category as the self-management category which basically ensures that all the competencies identified among employees are aligned with action. This entails the self-management quality among employees because if the above competencies are not managed well, they may not add value to the overall realization of organizational goals in the organization. In this regard, therefore, this framework defines the key competencies under this subcategory as self-awareness, integrity, flexibility, adaptability, self-confidence, learning agility, proactivity, and resilience.
If employees exhibit these competencies, then they are more likely to effectively uphold the previous competencies identified. The probability of employees having all these competencies is obviously minimal but the organization should ensure employees who meet most of the above criteria are selected for the top jobs.
For each of the respective competencies, there is a statement that explains, in a heartbeat, what the competency is all about, the five core behaviors observed and a set of optional alternatives needed to allow the choice of behaviors to be implemented. When using the competency framework, the competencies can be tailored to meet two levels of individual needs: personal and organizational needs.
The factors to be met can be used to reflect on specific issues, such as what is the most important factor in the individual roles of employees, organizational priorities, existing strengths and weaknesses, a current development plan, and previous feedback (which may need to be validated, or which is clear in its own nature). However, the choice of behaviors to be reflected in the competency framework entails the components of the individual role (for example, managing an operational team or project), the seniority and scope of the role, the company’s organizational culture, and ultimately what is important to the individual.
Analysis of the Competency Framework
The major problem realized in developing the competency framework was how to organize it in the first place. After a thorough review of existing literature on the same, it was important to base the framework on the roles different employees play in the organization. This competency framework was developed from a mixture of a top-down approach in managerial practices, as well as a bottom-up approach from most managerial literature and existing organizational literature. It is however important to note that the framework is not based on any empirical literature but rather a range of managerial, leadership, and personal effectiveness literature.
Comprehensively, the framework was developed on the basis of coming up with an intellectually rigorous literature piece, a highly face valid literature analysis, a comprehensive but not overwhelming excerpt, and an expression of simple and straightforward language. In ensuring the framework was effective and developed for the intended purpose, it was important to limit the scope of the framework to managerial issues and white-collar work (Kandula 2006, p. 21).
In analyzing this competency framework, we will briefly analyze one criterion that can be used in the development of competency frameworks (after which another criterion will be later used to contrast the development of this article’s competency framework). The first approach is defined by the National and Scottish vocational qualifications. Competency frameworks developed in this manner are normally developed according to a progression towards particular competency qualifications.
The list of competency qualifications can easily be obtained from the World Wide Web but others can still be obtained from internal research programs, although sometimes, other organizations prefer to borrow some expertise from external consultants. The major criteria through which competency frameworks developed in this manner are through the evaluation of internal programs and the quest to blend it with similar programs developed in the past.
However, this competency framework does not rely on web tools for the development of the competency framework but rather an internal self-analysis of the organization. Also unlike the National and Scottish vocational qualifications framework, the Empire fast food framework does not rely on external consultants but internal expertise only.
In comparison to the article developed on financial management and competency staff provided as the second comparison to this framework, this study’s competency framework is much broader in its scope of employee competency because the former is more skewed towards determining financial competencies (only) but this article revolves around all types of competencies. This means that this competency framework can be applied in virtually the entire organization and not only the financial department or financial organizations only.
The financial management competency framework is also unique; in that, it ranks employees according to their financial competencies, implying that the system is one-sided (employee-oriented). However, the Empire fast food restaurant competency framework is more two-sided; in that, it incorporates both employee and customer inputs (therefore trying to merge the interests of both parties in making the overall implementation and effectiveness of the framework a success).
The two frameworks are however similar in the sense that they both strive at developing individual competencies, and in some sense, they can be used in employee personal development (Thomson 2001, p. 121). Both frameworks can therefore also be used by individuals who wish to identify their personal training and development needs, in line with their career development paths or business growth. Secondly, the two frameworks, to a large extent provide both strategic leadership and management because they define managerial growth (in the long run) for both organizations. Moreover, the Empire fast food restaurant competency framework has especially been extensively borrowed from managerial literature. Basically, the components to the framework rely a lot on managerial expertise to make the overall implementation of the framework a success (Horton 2002, p. 54).
Implementation of the Competency Framework
For a long time, dealing with disgruntled customers at Empire fast food restaurant has been a thorn in the flesh for the company. However, implementing less traditional competency plans and more pragmatic approaches can go a long way in relieving the company’s stressful periods of dealing with disgruntled customers. It is therefore important to note that even though the company may not necessarily have to change its staffing strategies, it needs to change the way it implements its competency strategies. This is true because the implementation of competency frameworks should not be perceived as an easy thing, considering it entails a change in organizational culture and employee behavior (which is quite a difficult task to accomplish).
The main objective is to come up with a different context for implementing the competency framework. The company should therefore refrain from coming up with specific current solutions to tackle future problems, or come up with future strategic solutions with certainty and surety, since unforeseen factors may cause such strategies to be ineffective in the long run. With these odds in mind, the company should strive to implement the competency framework as part of the overall long-term strategic vision of the company, where short-term decisions can be made and implemented at the same time.
For instance, if the company documents that it requires five new project managers with a given competency by the end of the 2011 fiscal year, the company has the option of sourcing the managers through hiring, redeployment, promotion, work assignment, use of contracts, and other similar sources. To adopt the best option (among the above options), the company ought to have a long-term vision of its strategic goals. This means that the competency requirements for the organization need to go beyond the current fiscal year; implying that a more current alternative is needed for the organization, say, through hiring or promotion.
However, if the urgency for the new project managers is a “blip”, a less permanent solution is more appropriate for the organization. For instance, the organization may decide to delay future company projects or hire new contractors for the time being as they solve the staffing problem. This will also ensure that new project managers are deployed to project facilities without any hurry and indeed, no surplus project managers will be experienced. Whichever way the company chooses to go about the situation, future-competency requirements for the company need to be first established.
Also, the company should carry out effective discussions with relevant stakeholders, including the company shareholders, employee unions, and the likes before implementing the competency framework. This will ensure that the company gets enough support in implementing the competency framework. Moreover, management will get enough support when dealing with any resistance to its strategic recommendations. However, Fombrun (1984, p. 84) notes that it is important to instill an organizational culture in the organization which would be compatible with the overall goal of implementing the competency framework. This is true because if the organization has a supportive culture, less resistance will be experienced from the employees.
Even as Empire fast food restaurant implements new staffing strategies, it ought to understand that the competency framework component which seems unfavorable to the employees should be handled carefully and with higher sensitivity than other company strategies. This is also important in ensuring there is a smooth transition from initial competency policies to new policies.
The new competency framework ought to be formulated with the performance of the organization and the future business needs of the organization in mind. The framework should then be implemented with the firmness and strictness it requires (although in a timely manner; such that, the employees feel more accommodated in the overall strategic goal of the organization and their strengths and interests well accommodated by the competency framework).
This strategy is in line with recommendations by Fombrun (1984, p. 86) who notes that:
“one of the greatest injustices that can be done to an individual or an organization is letting the person take a position which he/she is not qualified to hold since the likelihood of unproductiveness and unhappiness is likely to be experienced in the organization and the person’s life respectively”.
However, most importantly, Empire fast-food restaurant should pay close attention to issues revolving around selection, placement, compensation, training, and the company’s management culture because these are the factors that determine the overall success in the implementation of the competency framework (Falconer 2001, p. 208).
However, there are also new tactics and strategies managers ought to understand as part of their management training objectives. To complement these tactics and strategies, all the managers should be kept in a management awareness training program where relevant skills and qualifications required before a manager takes up managerial responsibilities are imparted to the managers. However, this implies that significant managerial culture issues need to be revisited because the company should look for ways in which it can improve managerial communication upwards or horizontally (as well as adopt new strategies through which managers can better treat their subordinates).
These are some of the critical areas through which some lessons on competency framework implementation can be learned. More importance should therefore be made on the management of human resource strategies because the implementation of a competency framework is an important human resource function and human resource strategies that are poorly managed are bound to fail.
In as much as Empire company employees need to understand why a change in their behavior and organizational culture is important to the realization of organizational goals, they also need to understand that such changes are also important for the competency framework to work.
Without common support of the organizational aspirations from all employees, then the likelihood of one or more employees working contrary to organizational goals is high. The day-to-day operations which the organization undertakes also ought to be very supportive of the overall competency framework. The culture, resourcing, and the management framework also need to be in tandem with the overall realization of organizational goals, although they also need to be very realistic with the overall goal of organizational success. If certain aspects of the employee or organizational culture inhibit organizational goals, then it needs to be changed.
In as much as organizations need to have well-set goals and visions, it is also important to note that behavior is also influenced by specific attributes such as employee attitude, knowledge, and skills because employee behavior is also subject to human behavioral dynamics. In this manner, underdeveloped characteristics such as communication skills can tremendously affect the realization of organizational goals because it will negatively affect human behavior (Mindtools Ltd 2010). It is important for managers to comprehend this behavior because they may strive to change employee behavior without necessarily changing the root cause of poor employee behavior.
Once the competency framework is already developed (like it has been) it is important for the organization to train all the relevant people meant to use it to know what role they have to play in the overall implementation of the framework. This is true because the competency framework is normally designed as a tool and therefore, just like any tool, the people meant to use it should know how to do so.
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